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NYU Expansion Plan Approved by City Planning Commission

City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, shown Nov. 30, 2011, voted in support of NYU's expansion plan June 6, 2012.
City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, shown Nov. 30, 2011, voted in support of NYU's expansion plan June 6, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

LOWER MANHATTAN — New York University's Greenwich Village campus expansion plan, which has been controversial in the community for years, won the support of the City Planning Commission Wednesday.

In a 12-1 vote, the Commission approved a newly modified version of the NYU 2031 plan hashed out between the university and the Commission. The 20-year expansion plan, which creates four new buildings, balances NYU's need for more space with the long-term impact on the Village, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said.

"The NYU proposal for the 'superblocks' will provide important new and needed space to one of the city’s most important institutions of higher learning, while providing significant open space and other amenities to the surrounding neighborhood," she said.

The NYU 2031 blueprint calls for four new buildings on the two large blocks bordered by LaGuardia Place and Mercer Street, West Houston and West 3rd streets.

Modifications the Commission made to the plan — which follow NYU concessions announced in April by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer — eliminate a planned hotel, remove commercial space from loft blocks and reduce the heights of two of the four planned buildings.

The changes also remove a planned temporary gym and preserve a playground until 2029, when it will be replaced, Burden said.

NYU vice president Alicia Hurley praised the vote.

"We are pleased that NYU's strategy for its core has been approved by the Commission," she said in a statement. "We look forward to the next stage of the process before the City Council."

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer criticized the Commission for not ratifying two changes he had negotiated for the southern block of the site: a elimination of part of the building planned for the southeast corner to "protect light and air" for locals and the removal of one story beneath the planned elementary school site on the northwest corner.

"This makes no sense, especially in light of fact that NYU agreed to these changes," he continued. "I expect the City Council to correct these mistakes.”

The Commission did not immediately respond to an inquiry about why these changes were not approved.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation executive director Andrew Berman said the new modifications make only a small dent in the negative effects of the plan, which calls for more than 2 million square feet of new construction.

“It’s shocking that a body with ‘planning’ in its name would try to shoehorn an Empire State Building’s worth of construction into a few blocks in the Village," he said. "If built, the plan would eliminate playgrounds, parks and dog runs in one of the most park-starved communities in New York City … and turn a residential neighborhood into a 20-year construction zone."

Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood, a group of more than 100 businesses and neighborhood groups, praised the modifications but asked that the building heights receive additional reductions and that all planned commercial uses of the superblocks be removed.

The plan will next be reviewed by City Council, which has 60 days to hold public hearings and vote.